Exchange Matters / October 20, 2015

Global Ties 2020: A Strategic Path Forward

This year marks two important milestones for our network. As members know, 2015 is the 75th anniversary of the International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). Less well-known, however, is that it marks the conclusion of the three year strategic plan for Global Ties U.S. This serendipitous timing allows us to take a moment to reflect on our progress and contemplate our future. How far have we come? What steps do we need to take in the next strategic plan to build and maintain the strongest, most effective network of internationally-engaged organizations?

Looking back at the goals laid out in the organization’s 2012 strategic plan, we have come a long way and made significant progress. The 2012 plan included goals crafted to strengthen our network, raise the visibility of our collective work, expand our advocacy efforts, and diversify our funding base to ensure long-term network stability.

We have increased collaboration and encouraged strategic partnerships and innovative thinking throughout our network

To strengthen our network, we set out to increase the number of high performing organizations as determined by a variety of benchmarks that we measure through each member’s end-of-year reporting. Since 2012, we have succeeding in helping 20 organizations go from good to great. Another critical goal was to have all Global Ties grantees demonstrate full compliance with federal regulations. We have fully achieved that goal.

To raise the visibility of the Global Ties network, we sought to increase non-IVLP membership by 300 percent. In the past three years we have seen a 150 percent growth in those membership categories, primarily from international members. To expand our advocacy efforts, our goal was for Global Ties to be recognized leaders in advocacy for public and citizen diplomacy. While this goal is a bit more challenging to measure, we have made significant progress. Global Ties has a seat on the Alliance for International Educational and Cultural Exchange Board of Directors, members of the Global Ties staff are frequent advocacy team leads for the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, and the U.S. Department of State regularly looks to Global Ties for input and feedback on Congressional engagement.

The last goal in our strategic plan was to diversify our funding base in order to weather uncertainties in Congressional appropriations. In this regard, we were able to move from five percent non-U.S. Department of State income to 11 percent.

While we didn’t meet some goals to the fullest extent we planned, Global Ties U.S. has made significant strides to ensure the health and vibrancy of our network. And taking time to measure and reflect on our progress offers important insights as we think about the next few years.

What steps do we need to take in our next strategic plan?

This summer, through our Diplomacy Begins Here regional summits, we have increased collaboration and encouraged strategic partnerships and innovative thinking throughout our network. We are taking the same approach to our new strategic plan.

We hope to understand your perspectives and incorporate it into a shared vision for the future

The process for crafting a new strategic plan officially launched at the Board of Directors meeting in July. We agreed that outreach to our members and partners throughout the network is a crucial component of the strategic planning process. By engaging our stakeholders and soliciting your input, we hope to understand your perspectives and incorporate it into a shared vision for the future.

We are focused on getting input from our colleagues at community-based member organizations (CBMs) and national programming agencies (NPAs), our partners at the U.S. Department of State, our Advisory Council, and past and present members of our Board of Directors. To capture this wide variety of perspectives and input, we are collecting feedback through a variety of channels. We sent an online survey to our CBM and NPA colleagues to solicit their direct feedback. For our DC-based partners, including NPAs and the Department of State, President Jennifer Clinton is hosting larger strategic planning sessions, followed by individual organization and departmental sessions, to ensure everyone’s perspective is included. Because a physical meeting would not be possible for our community-based partners across the United States, we are hosting a webinar to discuss survey results and elaborate on our strategic planning process in an interactive and engaging format. In addition, members of the Board of Directors have offered to take and make calls to CBMs to allow for a more personalized and in-depth discussion on their individual perspectives. A wide scope of perspectives is crucial for our plan, so we are also actively engaging former Board of Directors members, made up of mainly CBM executives, to ensure we capture and incorporate all perspectives. This outreach and collaboration will ensure that our vision of Global Ties in 2020 complements and strengthens our diverse network.

It is our goal through this process to create a new strategic plan that enhances the capabilities of members, strengthens and expands our network, and builds support for the crucially important work you do for international exchange programs. We look forward to working with all stakeholders across the country and world to build a world in 2020 that is more peaceful, prosperous, and globally-connected than it is today.

By James S. Wolf, Chair, Board of Directors, Global Ties U.S.